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Access_open The Development of Moral Reasoning in the Law Curriculum - An Exploration of Various Teaching Activities

Special issue on Education in (Professional) Legal Ethics, Emanuel van Dongen & Jet Tigchelaar (eds.)

Journal Law and Method, March 2022
Keywords moral reasoning, legal education, scholarship of teaching and learning, defining issues test
Authors Emanuel van Dongen and Steven Raaijmakers
AbstractAuthor's information

    Developing the capacity for moral judgment is an essential professional competence for lawyers. What teaching and learning activities in the law curriculum can be used in order to contribute to students’ moral reasoning and moral judgment? Four teaching methods were tried out in the period 2019 to 2021 at the Utrecht University School of Law: teaching methods that either work with (hypothetical) dilemmas (I); in-class reflection papers (II); experiential learning based on own experiences in a simulation situation (III); or clinical teaching in a real law firm (IV). The effects of these methods on the development of moral reasoning were measured using the Defining Issues Test (DIT). Additional information on the effectiveness and utility of the method was gathered using semi-structured interviews with teachers. The DIT results were compared at the beginning and at the end of the courses and related to the teaching methods. This article presents the outcomes of this study and formulates some recommendations for further research on the topic.


Emanuel van Dongen
Dr. Emanuel van Dongen is Associated Professor Private Law at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law and the Montaigne Centre for Rule of Law and Administration of Justice, Utrecht School of Law.

Steven Raaijmakers
Dr. Steven Raaijmakers is an educational consultant with Educational Consultancy & Professional Development, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University.
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